I love 1 Corinthians 12! It is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. The scripture takes time to highlight some of the spiritual gifts that Christians possess in order to love and worship God and enhance the body of believers through service.
The Apostle Paul begins the passage reminding us that he does not want us to be ignorant about spiritual gifts. I suspect that most mature leaders are aware of their spiritual gifts. He then goes on to distinguish between the different gifts and how they compliment each other as long as they are of the Holy Spirit and in worship to the Triune God. Paul then writes of the universal Church as a body fitly joined together for good work. He makes it clear that we all need each other, reminding us that “God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be (1 Cor 12: 18 NIV).”
He continues, “There should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other (1 Cor 12:25).” Finally, he reminds us that our gifts, talents, blessings themselves are not to be worshipped; rather we should eagerly desire the greater gifts of love, hope, and faith, the greatest of which is love.
This passage has wonderful insight for leaders. It humbles us by reminding us that our gifts, talents, and leadership abilities are not given by God for our own selfish pursuits. On the contrary, God has called us to a place of humility where we can also recognize the various ways in which he has gifted others and encourage them in their gifts, no matter how great or small.
This passage reminds us of our responsibility of leading: focus on God, focus on love, focus on maintaining a spirit of unity and oneness with other believers. Keeping these focuses in mind ensure that all of our gifts are put to use for the benefit of the collective whole that is the Church body.
Concerning our need for each other, Paul asks:
If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?…The eye cannot say to the hand, “ I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor…But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, ever part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it (1 Cor 12:17, 21-23a, 24b-26).
We are one in Christ Jesus. As leaders and stewards, we are called to bestow special honor on those that others consider less valuable. We are to give them opportunities. We are to suffer when they suffer and rejoice when they are honored.
Keeping this prospective helps us steward our gifts. Proper prospective takes our eyes off ourselves and focus them on Jesus. Far too many leaders are weary and burned out from overwork and over commitment. Unsuccessfully, they try to be all things to all people.
Reflecting on 1 Corinthians 12, helps us better steward our gifts. It encourages us to discern how God has gifted us, where he would have us focus our efforts, and the proper timing of those efforts. It subtly calls us to identify the people God has entrusted to our care to influence, love, serve, and honor. It challenges us to build them up and empower them to exercise their gifts.
Leading well means serving well, but it also requires our making wise decisions, knowing our limitations, and building a team. We can delegate and trust others to walk in their areas of giftedness. We may need to train them; they may need to train us, and this is the body of Christ lovingly at work in community where his name is made great.
How does this passage speak to you as a Christian and/or leader? What ways to do steward or manage your gifts? How has being in community assisted in that stewardship?
© Natasha S. Robinson 2011